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At UN, Unanswered Questions on Sudan, Kosovo and Kenya, Russia on McCain, Chinese Feasts

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- The level of UN-responsiveness by Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson peaked on Monday, with three questions in a row not answered, even, aggressively rebuffed. The questions ranged from Sudan to Kosovo to Kenya, from kidnapped oil workers to Balkan politics to election mediation for which the UN has claimed credit. That is no guarantee that even the most basic questions will be answered. The transcript is below.

  Meanwhile, the Russian Mission to the UN's press release about a fundraising letter from John McCain, sent to Inner City Press and others (click here for press release, and here for McCain's letter) garnered mainstream coverage. What was not sufficiently asked or answered was why Russia chose to embarrass McCain, and how they would respond to a similar letter from Obama's campaign.

   On the ever increasing evasions by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, consider Monday's transcript:

Inner City Press: There are these reports in Abyei in South Sudan and [inaudible] of these oil workers being taken hostage by the Justice and Equality Movement.  Does UNMIS have any involvement, or UNAMID, either in trying to find out who took them hostage and get them released?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know, really.  I can try to find out whether they were at all doing an investigation on that.  I wouldn’t suppose they would, but I’ll try to find out for you.

Inner City Press: Okay, thanks.  The other is, there is also the EULEX force in Kosovo, not force, Rule of Law Mission, is now said to have included the United States which is obviously not a member of the European Union.  Did the UN in handing over its power to this EULEX, that it was in its understanding that non-EU members would become part of that?

Spokesperson:  The UN has not handed over power.  The UN is still functioning under 1244.  In working with EULEX on these issues, what EULEX decides in terms of its own composition is not for the UN to decide.

Question:  Would its [inaudible] put countries that have nothing to do...

Spokesperson:  That has to do with, those are their own decisions.

Churkin, with Rep's of US and China, McCain letter and reaction to EULEX-US not shown

Inner City Press: And this guy, Mr. Gallucci, who was one of the deputies of UNMIK that covered northern Kosovo, has said that he’s been transferred to East Timor.  Was this against... is that a transfer that he requested?  I mean, because he is a controversial figure in Kosovo, you may think it’s not important, but he was siding with Serbia in the takeover of the court house on 17 May.

Spokesperson:  Well, you should ask him whether it is a voluntary transfer.  You should ask him.

Inner City Press: Okay.  I guess, I am saying, you’re not aware of any move within the UN here to transfer Mr. Gallucci to placate other forces?

Spokesperson:  No.

Inner City Press: Okay.  And then, it sort of somewhat related to the question about Zimbabwe.  In Kenya, Kofi Annan got a report about the violence in the elections, including the suggestion that various people be prosecuted in a tribunal.  He says he supports that.  Is he saying that on behalf of the UN?  Is he saying...

Spokesperson:  No, he is the mediator of the post-electoral crisis in Kenya and he is speaking as the mediator in this case.

Inner City Press: Is that a UN...?

Spokesperson:  No, he is not.  It’s his role; his own role...

Inner City Press: Does the UN support his...

Spokesperson:  We supported his role all throughout and we still do support his effort in Kenya to try to mediate the crisis.  And as you know, the Secretary-General went there to express his support for that mission.

Inner City Press: Would the UN, if requested, would the UN; there is a call for a tribunal, whether it’s a national one or may be an international one.  Is the UN aware of any request that it participate in that tribunal?

Spokesperson:  No, there is no such request and I won’t answer a hypothetical question of that sort. 

      All we can say, particularly during the U.S. baseball playoffs, is three strikes and you're out. Contrast this with the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, who after the exchange below sent a Monday night email confirming the vote for Australia and saying he'd try to produce a copy of the Security Council election ballot on Tuesday:

Spokesperson:  I can give you a precise and detailed answer tomorrow.  Matthew.

Inner City Press: One final follow up on the Security Council elections on Friday.  Maybe I didn’t ask it right.  Is there a way we can see, not how people voted, but what the ballot looked like? Because, it seems that that ballot that was…

Spokesperson:  It was a normal ballot box.

Inner City Press: Okay. No, no, the actual thing that people voted on; were these ones like, Madagascar, Brazil and it turns out when you got it out, it didn’t say Australia.  Apparently, Australia, maybe I misheard you.  Apparently Australia got a vote in the [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Let me get the official counting for that for you.

Inner City Press: Australia got a vote and it was said that this was, somehow some voter mistook Australia for Austria and cast their ballot.  So, I didn’t figure [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  I don’t remember seeing Australia.  I mean, I hear the President of the General Assembly giving the votes, the breakdown and I took notes.  And I don’t remember Australia; but may be I am wrong.  Let me check that more precisely for you.

Inner City Press: I don’t mean the boxes; I mean the actual, whatever, form the people voted on.  People just checked as the thing was running.

Spokesperson:  Sure.  I can try to get a copy for you.

Question:  See, if you can, just to figure that out.  And the other one is -- this has to do with the Fourth Committee.  There was this postponement of the decolonization and the Western Sahara resolutions.  Do you have any idea if, is there some deadline to vote on them or they’re going to be voted on today?  Where is that?

Spokesperson:  I am not sure what the deadline is.  I can check that for you.  But I think it is supposed to be today and tomorrow, the discussions.

Question:  Okay.  And also exactly, it also said the Fourth Committee is going to consider “questions of information”, I guess that’s functioning as the Committee on Information, maybe?

Spokesperson:  I assume so.

Question:  Anyway, are the presentations by the Department of Public Information (DPI) to the Committee, are they publicly available?  For example, on this issue of UN affairs where [inaudible]... for submissions.  Is that something the public gets or...?

Spokesperson:  To be honest, I don’t know.  I’ll check that for you and I’ll let you know immediately.

Question:  Okay, great.  Thanks very much.

  Late on Monday, this Spokesperson Enrique Yeves wrote to say

"Hi Matthew, You were right, Austrailia got one vote! I´ll try tomorow to see if I can get a ballot example. Regards (and good night!)"

  All we can say is, like night and day.

Footnote on... food: Monday evening in the UN Delegates' Dining Room, Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe praised China, flanked by that country's Permanent Representative and his Deputy, Mr. Liu. Tourism and dynamism were extolled. (Left unanswered, again by Ban's Spokesperson's Office, was Inner City Press' question last week about whether Lynn Pascoe traveled to Rabat to get the government of Morocco to agree to Christopher Ross as his Western Sahara envoy.)

  Then some feasting began, on shrimp and duck and even lobster claws. This comes two weeks after a celebration in the lobby of the Shanghai Expo 2010. China is ascendant, at the UN as elsewhere. But various Ambassadors said the food was disappointing. Only at the UN. Next week at the Mission we bet that things will be different.

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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